Redskins at NFL draft combine focus on whether to select a quarterback in April

By Rick Maese and Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 24, 2010; D03

When the Washington Redskins' scouts, coaches and front office members hit downtown Indianapolis for this week's NFL draft combine, they'll be spending their days evaluating potential draft picks and any spare second studying players already on the team's roster.

General Manager Bruce Allen said coaches are dissecting every snap each player has played with the Redskins, and he hopes that evaluation process will be completed by March 1.

"We've taken a lot of steps to make sure that in free time at the combine that our coaches have the ability to continue to evaluate the current Redskins," Allen said.

The hope is that by better understanding what the team currently has on its roster, they can better determine what pieces need to be added.

More than 300 prospects will attend the combine, the NFL's annual job fair, which opens Wednesday. The combine gives NFL team officials a chance to meet, evaluate and interview the college products that can fill roster holes.

For Washington, with a new coach and a new general manager, many analysts think a new quarterback is next. While ESPN's draft guru, Mel Kiper Jr., projects the Redskins to select Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen with the draft's fourth overall pick, many others think the team will chase after Oklahoma's Sam Bradford.

"If you're the Washington Redskins, the first decision you have to make is the quarterback position," said Mike Mayock, the NFL Network's draft expert. "If you believe there's a franchise quarterback available at number four, that trumps all other needs, in my opinion."

The Redskins aren't tipping their cards. Shanahan hasn't spoken with local reporters since he was introduced as coach last month, and in a recent interview, Allen gave no indication as to how the Redskins might be leaning. Allen did say he doesn't take much stock in the long list of mock drafts that link the Redskins with a quarterback.

"I do think it's a little premature to put much weight in those because there's a lot that will play out between now and the draft," Allen said.

Jason Campbell, the Redskins' starter at quarterback since 2006, is a restricted free agent, which means the Redskins should have the option of bringing him back. Barring a new labor deal, if another team bids on Campbell's services, the Redskins have the opportunity to match any other team's contract offer.

Even if the Redskins draft a new quarterback, they might want to retain Campbell while a rookie quarterback adjusts to the pro level.

"Obviously, Jason has been talked about quite a bit," Allen said. "Coach Shanahan and Kyle [Shanahan, offensive coordinator] and Matt [LaFleur, quarterbacks coach] are getting a good feel for how they can see him in the future in a Redskin uniform."

It's no secret that Shanahan likes to build his offense around a reliable quarterback, which has spurred much speculation that he is targeting a signal-caller with the team's first pick. Shanahan has received mixed reviews for many of his draft decisions in Denver. Critics have said that Shanahan doesn't heed always the advice of his scouts.

Since arriving in Washington, Shanahan hasn't made any changes to the team's scouting department, which means he'll be relying on reports generated by talent evaluators installed by the previous management team.

"I don't know who made final decisions on some of the things in Denver. There were some mistakes made there that kind of hurt that franchise a bit," Kiper said. "But overall, I have great respect for Mike's ability as a coach, number one. And certainly in Washington, his personnel skills are going to be on display right away."

The paradox facing Shanahan is whether the Redskins' first-round pick is better used on a quarterback or on an offensive lineman who can protect the quarterback. At this week's combine, team officials will get a chance to see several linemen in action but none of the draft's top quarterbacks are expected to throw.

"If you think Sam Bradford is a franchise quarterback and that right shoulder is going to stand up medically, then I believe you have got to take Sam Bradford," Mayock said. "Having said that, there's a school of thought out there also, you better upgrade your offensive line before you draft a young quarterback or he may get killed.

"But I always go back to: The franchise quarterback trumps everything. So if Bradford or Clausen, in your opinion, is the guy, I think you've got to take him at four."

Mayock thinks there are six or seven offensive tackles who are first-round quality and isn't sure how many might fall to the second round, where the Redskins hold the No. 37 pick.

"Our coaches and our scouts obviously have been combing the tape, making sure we have a good feel for who these players are on the football field, so we can use this time at the combine to get to know the players," Allen said. "We want to get to know them physically, from the medical standpoint, but also seeing if they're going to mesh and fit into what we're looking to build here."

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